GREEN campaigners want city planners to abandon suburban sprawl in favour of a whole new town in the countryside around York.

The city’s environment forum has spoken out against the most recent draft of the Local Plan, which sets out housing and business development for York for the coming years.

Councillors and planners need to stop trying to “offend the least number of people” and look at braver, more creative and sustainable ways to solve the housing crisis, the forum’s chairman Phil Bixby said.

Instead of myriad smaller developments, the people in charge of the plan should look for one site large enough to support a whole community with strong public transport links - even though it it might anger people nearby, said the forum.

In a formal response to a recent Local Plan consultation, the forum wrote: “We believe development of peripheral sites should be concentrated into one substantial community of sufficient size to support a full range of community facilities, and could support the investment in infrastructure which would be required to make any development on the edge of the city sustainable.

"The current proposal for Elvington aerodrome is of insufficient scale for this to be the case; it is suggested that something in the region of 5,000 new homes would be a more successful target.”

At the moment, the largest single site is near Elvington, and will eventually contain 3,300 new homes.

That plan has come under fire from Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, who are worried the development will endanger the nearby beauty spot Heslington Tillmire and Elvington airfield’s scientifically important grasslands.

York Press:

The next largest housing site is off Wigginton Road, and will eventually contain 1,350 new houses.

However, the environment forum have criticised the low densities - of around 35 dwellings per hectare (dph) predicted for both sites, saying such low figures will result in old-fashioned suburban sprawl which does not create self-contained communities, or good transport networks.

They go on to say the one larger settlement they want to see - of at least 5,000 dwellings - should not be sited near the congested single-carriageway outer ring road, the A1237, and should focus on areas of lower environmental value, whether or not the land is designated as greenbelt.

York Press:

Heidelberg’s Bahnstadt development, which York Environment Forum says could be an example to follow at York Central

The plan also needs to look at better ways of financing development on York Central, Mr Bixby added, as leaving it to private investors will lead to high-rise apartments which do not serve York’s existing housing need.

He said examples like Heidelberg’s Bahnstadt showed how former railway yards very similar to York Central could be redeveloped into distinctive neighbourhoods, with a good range of high-density medium-rise housing.